Not so long ago, classifieds were a niche way of shopping mostly useful for finding a limited range of specialist goods like furniture, cars, and collectibles. The classifieds page in the newspaper was not a place most people turned to when looking for clothes, books, or electronics. But as more and more shopping has migrated online, online classifieds sites have seen unprecedented growth, and experts suggest that the second hand economy may be stronger now than it has ever been before.
And yet the roots of this explosion in online classifieds are complex. The Internet has obviously played an important role by eliminated the barriers to networking that previously existed, but the appeal of online classified ads cannot be explained solely by reference to the rise of new technologies. The fact that most North Americans can browse classified ads at any time using the phones in their pockets is significant, but it is only one part of the story. So what accounts for the rest of it.
Buying second hand has always been one of the most important ways for families to save money, but it was long stigmatized as a sign of poverty. This has changed over the course of the last twenty years, as greater environmental awareness and general changes in North American lifestyle have made younger consumers more conscious of cutting down on waste. As sustainability has become more fashionable, many millennial shoppers have come to see buying second hand as a sign of smart, savvy consumption and this has fuelled a greater interest inonline classifieds.
Another key change is that online classified sites have become hubs for buying and selling. Where newspaper classifieds involved a more cumbersome system – people submitted their ads, then had to wait for a phone call or letter – the seamless nature of online marketplaces has made it possible for online classified sites to become a two-way street where sales are negotiated at the same time as purchases. For example, it is now possible to create a post advertising a used couch and have the sale completed by the end of the day, while in the meantime the seller browses other classifieds to find a second-hand phone.
Because the sales can now happen much more quickly, they have also become an effective way to get rid of unwanted products. Where once a person moving to a smaller apartment may have left a desk on their front lawn with a “free” sign on it, that person can now simply make a post on an online classified site, and make some money off of it in the process.
This convenience coupled with the decreased stigma, DIY chic, and the instantaneous nature of communication through online classified hubs, has made online classifieds one of the hottest properties in the e-commerce world. It is estimated that the global classifieds market will be worth$47 billion globally by the end of the decade, and these changes are already having a fundamental impact on how North Americans view shopping. Between the changes wrought by e-retailers and the rise of the online classifieds industry, one thing is certain: shopping will never be the same again.